Ask An Aesthetician: Will eating dairy cause acne breakouts?

does dairy cause acne


Each week we explore your questions in Ask An Aesthetician with Seti Mayet; former instructor at the International Dermal Institute and founder of skin care practice, Enliven Your Skin, in Los Angeles, CA. Check out last week’s question – “How do I pop a pimple without leaving a scar?” and send us your questions via social media or email. 


Hi Seti, will eating dairy cause acne breakouts? And if so, is it safe to apply products topically with dairy in them, like milk or yogurt?

Seti: There is growing evidence to support a link between heavy or regular consumption of milk and dairy products and acne. In fact, Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group  notes that “Milk contains hormones in it, such as estrogen, which can affect the person who’s drinking it. Dairy has also been shown to stimulate testosterone in those who consume it. Additionally, it may also stimulate the production of other hormones and cell signaling, particularly inflammatory signals, in the body.”

In my own professional experience, whenever I encounter clients with milia ( A milium; plural milia also called a milk spot or an oil seed, is a clog of the eccrine sweat gland) I know immediately that they consume a healthy amount of milk and/or cheese and once we modify or eliminate it, the skin becomes less congested and inflamed; this is true over 80% of the time. 

The common milk derived ingredient you’ll find in skin care is lactic acid which is an alphahydroxy acid made from sour milk. You can find it in everything from cleansers, moisturizers, bath products, masks and peels that vary in strength; yet all  are formulated to provide gentle exfoliation which remove dead cells so you see brighter tone as well as smoother and softer skin and better hydration. 

Lactic Acid peels are very beneficial  for people who have very sensitive skin that might not be able to tolerate the slightly more intense glycolic acid peels. Although lactic acid peels are gentler, they usually provide many of the same benefits as the other peels, but in a less intense version. 

So, topical use of milk products is fine if you have acne and can have many benefits to the skin.  If however, your specific concern is acne and you don’t have sensitive skin, glycolic acid (which I prefer for mature skin) and/or salicylic acid is the better ingredient or professional treatment choice.


Written by aesthetician Seti Mayet; former instructor at the International Dermal Institute and founder of skin care practice, Enliven Your Skin, in Los Angeles, CA. Photographed by: Wing Ta.